Holiday season is here. Which means more drinking, eating and being merry. Shameless playing of Christmas tunes. Putting off gym routines till January. Panic buying of useless trinkets to satisfy obligations. Feels so good in the short term, but leaves you feeling a little bit wasteful, right?
This festive season Nike is giving everyone in the States a chance to buy a stocking stuffer that really counts: 5% of all Nike gift card proceeds go to support Active Schools across the country.
Why? Because active kids do better. Not just better at sports, but better attendance, better grades, better future. Active Schools are being set up to offer kids those opportunities and tackle the destructive effects of childhood inactivity in the US. The movement helps teachers integrate more physical activity into the school day and engage their community with the cause.
We’re thrilled to have been involved in the development of the Active Schools brand, including creating the identity and messaging for the gift cards. Such a simple solution. Such a big impact. And an answer to the age old question ‘what shall I get Dad this year?’. Give the gift that keeps kids moving.
5% of proceeds from all Nike gift cards sold in-store and online from December 1 through December 31, 2013 will help create Active Schools in the US. All funds raised go to AAHPERD to support Active Schools. Learn how to get involved by visiting www.activekidsdobetter.org.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
A Harold S Truman quote reworded by Reagan, reinterpreted in many management books and retweeted everywhere else.
It’s a funny quote. On first impressions it suggests an open, ego-agnostic leadership style, but add the context in which it’s usually delivered (presidential addresses, intellectual audiences, company pep talks) and the cynics among us will say it’s a way to make sure a leader can claim the credit for the fruits of credit-less approach.
The same tension between openness and recognition is playing out for brands as we see the trend of ‘making’ hit the mainstream. The maker movement, powered by its maker spirit, is one of sharing ideas and knowledge, teaching skills, opening processes, giving access to tools, obsessive collaboration and iterative building on the experiments of others.
The good vibes emanating from the maker communities around open hardware products like Arduino and raspberry pi are starting to make waves in boardrooms around the world. But it’s hard not to feel a little cynicism as more and more businesses start talking about embracing the makers when we know their corporate behaviour revolves around protecting their IP.
To avoid making becoming just another corporate buzzword it’s essential that we think about ways that competitive businesses can genuinely embrace this.
What is the boardroom ready, boxable version of making that allows big businesses to play their part? How do we package it in a way that it stays pure and powerful? That it demands more from businesses than consumer customisation or scrambling together a video of a half hearted hack day. How do we ensure making equals a reinvigorated sense of experimentation, new, potentially scary levels of openness and unexpected collaboration that transforms the things they make, the way they make them and what their customers can make with them?
It’s no wonder that making is attractive to brands. Allowing customers to make something of their own with things you provide creates a much deeper, more personal bond with a product. Asking people outside a business to see what they can come up with uncovers new needs and outsources expensive R&D. Showcasing an active maker community, a group of customers so passionate that they’re helping you make your products better, scores massive brand kudos.
But it’s a scary territory too. It means opening up certain parts of your IP and risking losing competitive advantage. It means dramatically decreasing the time to market and being prepared to launch things that may not be perfect. It means being comfortable with not knowing exactly what might be next in the pipeline or that people may find uses for things that you hadn’t intended and weren’t prepared for.
Two big brands that have recently changed their stance on maker communities spring to mind. IKEA threatened the site ikeahackers.net with legal actions as their members mixed and matched furniture parts into new playful mash-ups that anyone could recreate. They now quietly fund it. Microsoft too initially moved to prevent people hacking their kinect motion sensor before embracing the community showing them the true potential of what they had created.
Both realised that appearing to care less about who took the credit really means you can claim much more.
Brands born from the maker movement walk this line, effortlessly combining product and community, branded and user generated, your-ingenuity-thanks-to-us.com
Sugru for example, made by makers for makers, is a brand that simply channels the creativity of its customers to sell more of its universal fixing solution. And of course there’s Youtube. A partner and platform for the maker movement. A brand entirely reliant on the energy and diversity of the people making with and for it.
So how can a business that hasn’t had the luxury of growing with makers in mind now invite the world to play and how do they make sure the donation of time and skills feels like a fair exchange?
Platform thinking shows certain industries beginning to figure this out. It means being clear about what is fixed and what you’re allowing people to play with.
The app ecosystem from Apple took a huge first step. They invited everyone with an idea and some technical skills to create mini business that they could push to their millions of customers.
The trouble is Apple’s platform feels surrounded by some pretty hefty walls. The maker spirit, openness at its heart, is encased in a shiny gorilla glass cage, accessible by an almost masonic finger swipe, pinch or well-aimed poke at the iInterface.
Google’s android feels fairer to makers giving them the freedom to share their wares wider but, again, the real experience and use is still dictated by an army of competing handset manufacturers locked in lawsuits with case and counter case over the most meaningless of product details.
One can’t help wondering about the impact that could be created if manufacturers could apply the same innovation seen from makers in software environments to their hardware processes.
Well, here’s one someone else made earlier.
With one giant thunderclap Dave Hakkens told the world about phone blocks. An idea that shows us a glimpse of a fantastic future where businesses can wholeheartedly embrace the maker spirit.
Phone blocks is a hardware platform for a mobile handset that enables you to customise your ‘what used to be a phone’ into whatever you want it to be. It’s based around a simple motherboard onto which components can be attached. A new platform that established businesses, small start-ups and independent makers alike. Dave Hakkens’ product vision film suggests that if you love music you should get the marshal amp block. Love taking pictures? Add a Fuji camera block. Worried about your newborn? Stick on the baby monitor. Got a broken screen or want a better one? Swap out the component.
This idea, as with it’s proceeding app platforms, creates an instant market for the ingenuity of makers and allows them to work much more broadly but it’s bigger than that. It accelerates the innovation and dissemination of mobile technology beyond belief. It changes the role of the mobile handset and the telco networks that support it beyond recognition. It builds towards a future that is more sustainable and less wasteful. And it takes the making spirit and creates a way for it to have the positive impact on society that it deserves. And it’s clearly working, Google and Motorola have quickly partnered with him.
A similar debate debate rages is the microprocessor industry. Niche? Bit geeky? Maybe, but not when you think about how many connected devices will be powered by them in the future - rough estimates suggest around 50bn by 2015.
The connected future will be made possible by companies like ARM who are providing another example of the maker spirit employed by a big business.
ARM operates a business model reliant on an ecosystem of maker partners. It requires, as they call it, a grown up approach to collaboration. One that recognises that ARM makes money from the licensing of chip design IP whilst still allowing them to develop it further with partner businesses for new applications.
ARM positively revels in the multitude of uses that other businesses find for their low power chip designs. They are committed to growing their ecosystem and lowering the barrier to entry for new businesses to get a product to market. They are always quick to evangelise the power of their approach over a closed and focused innovation approach, which would force makers to be happy with what they’re given.
As a result ARM has its chip designs in (90%) of the worlds connected devices and with the market expected to grow to 48,000 million unit shipments of chips a year in 2020. It seems like a more than sustainable strategy.
This begs the question of what other industries could be transformed if we were to open up the supply chain? If we let makers in concentrated directed bursts, with businesses clear about the relationships they need to create to seat more makers at the boardroom table.
So here’s my plea to businesses inspired by the maker movement. Three rules to ensure businesses nurture makers not apply them as marketing:
1. Disrupt the supply chain. What can you let people outside of your business play with, add to, rethink? How can you support them in doing this?
2. Own the platform. How can everyone’s ideas build the relevance of something that only you provide?
3. Think fair exchange. How can your platform reward people’s hard work by supercharging their ideas (customers, distribution, social impact)?
Making is as much a mindset as it is an activity. It’s a mindset which, if applied properly, shows us it’s amazing what you can accomplish as long as you’re happy to share the credit.
At Wolff Olins, we work hard to put positive impact at the heart of everything we do - whether it’s through our work with clients, the things we do as a company or the things we do outside of work. In a sense we’re the oldest millennials in town!
TEDWomen2013 will celebrate invention in all its forms. Not just technology and things, but also solutions to poverty; approaches to peacemaking; expressions of art, and, at times, our own lives. Running at the same time as TEDWomen, will be over 150 TEDxWomen events, including Sairah’s. A truly global conversation - from San Francisco to São Paulo to Seoul to Soho which, in our case, will celebrate London’s designers, thinkers, makers, problem-solvers and leaders – in all their brilliance.
A key part of our event is the wonderful House of St Barnabas – a charity with a vision, a private members club with a social purpose and a beautiful building put to great use. They’re pioneering a new business model, enabling those affected by homelessness get into work and making the world a better place. Just our kind of people.
Do you have a hard time defining the vision behind your visionary idea —to customers, investors, or even to your mum? Is your elevator pitch standing a bit too awkwardly in the elevator?
Take a class with Wolff Olins’ lead strategist Melissa Andrada on how to use brand to nail your pitch.
This interactive session will equip you with the thinking and tools to take your brand to the next level. We’ll highlight key learnings directly from our clients and share tried-and-tested tools to help you build your own brand.
By the end of the class, you’ll be able to:
- create a compelling vision for your brand that brings in customers, attracts investors and inspires employees
- use your brand to drive impact across all parts of your business - from your Facebook page to your product offer to your office space
Mrs. Moody suggested we turn off the television this weekend. And so we went to Tate Britain – essentially a HD, 3D version of i-Player that predominantly broadcasts BBC4 content.
Throughout the course of the morning we managed to down a veritable cocktail of cultural influences. Changing the channel from James Martin to JMW Turner, toggling from Paul Hollywood to Klee. A mishmash of masterpieces and mass media.
I can’t say if it was the Chapman brothers poking fun at McDonalds with their creepy wood carvings or a creepy child, in a hat with a Pringles logo, poking fun at the Chapmans but I found myself questioning the crucial role the public has in making, breaking and forsaking brands. I also started to realise just what it means when something enters our collective minds.
Getting the public to acknowledge (let alone interact with) a brand is a distinctly Darwinian process. First, a brand needs to survive an early clubbing by studio and boardroom. Next, it has to negotiate PowerPoint pedantry, then a barrage of tricky focus groups. Then and only then can it face its toughest battle – a planned invasion of the public consciousness, preceded by more defeats than victories.
Public consciousness is not ‘the zeitgeist’ or ‘what’s trending’ nor is it simply ‘pop culture’. It’s not high art or low trash it’s a complex Gaga’ian mashup of all these things.
More importantly, it’s also a privileged space that, once earned, gives a brand license to behave in ever more creative, provocative and imaginative ways.
The Olympics opening ceremony was a fantastic display of the power of public consciousness - Brunel, Berners-Lee and Mel B all sat side by side in a fresh take on Britishness.
Over the pond The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular comedies on TV precisely because it skillfully weaves jokes about Schrodinger’s cat and CERN with everyday banality.
Wikipedia’s public consciousness transcends notions of class or cultural elites. It does not discriminate. It just celebrates what it likes and encourages true creativity.
Recently two chocolate brands showed how to and how not to embrace the public consciousness…
Google launched Android KitKat a seemly ludicrous amalgam of an operating system and the worlds favourite four-finger wafer snack. It was simple, daft, bold and warm. Brand cross-pollination that makes everyone smile.
Cadbury, meanwhile, got kicked out of the high court for trying to own a colour they already own in the minds of the public. Rather than trying to outlaw Pantone 2865C, Cadbury should be spending that money on more of the wonderfully weird stuff they do, like the current Christmas ad.
Creatives often think that if a product, service or expression has mass appeal then it’s a dumb sell out. Far from it. It means you’ve already got over the threshold, people know you, now they want to be impressed and amazed.
The public consciousness isn’t a cul de sac. It’s a drag strip where you have to constantly innovate just to keep up – and keep up you must.
Take Sony, years ago they exploded into the publics living room with a range of awesome products illustrated with the famous balls ad.
But then nothing.
While the product stuff remained smart, the way they talk about their brand is stuck in 2005. Today they are chasing past glories with an ad that references it’s history so hard it’s indistinguishable from a load of balls.
It takes a brave/idiotic brand to maintain a constant presence in the public consciousness. Kanye West’s brand activity implies he is both. You can’t deny that, having forced his way into the public’s minds, he’s behaved like a restless innovator and he revels in playing there.
Ultimately the public consciousness is hyper intelligent. Our collective mass knows their stuff and won’t put up with laziness. Brand builders should want to embrace all contemporary culture and not just busy themselves with their creative cliques. Stop being precious, stop worrying about selling out and drink it in. In fact Jäger bomb a bit of everything, at every available opportunity.
Everyone knows you’re a lot more creative when you’ve had a few…
Chris Moody is a creative director at Wolff Olins London.
Image credit: Mariel Clayton, after Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring from c. 1665
When I arrived at Wolff Olins Dubai as the newest intern, everyone here was extremely nice and welcomed me into their family. I say “family” because as strategists, creative designers, and account managers, they make up a very small but collaborative and powerful team. My boss and main mentor was Principal and Head of Strategy Zia Patel (in the picture above) who has worked in three of the company’s offices and now leads its Indian business. She introduced me to my duties and what I was responsible for.
I have liked all my past internships, but this one encapsulates both strategic and creative work, which, as a designer working toward a double major in economics and film & new media, I enjoy so much.
I had started looking for summer internship opportunities in February when I was studying abroad in New York. At that point I was interning at the British fashion house Stella McCartney as a marketing associate and thinking about continuing there during the summer. I was also offered a position at Gucci in New York, which was tempting. But after contemplating my options, I realised that I wanted something new, fresh, and more suitable for my skills and interests—What better place than Wolff Olins?
Strategists at Wolff Olins meet with clients, collaborate with them to define the challenge and its solutions, and then create an overall vision. I’ve found that many people think that branding is only creating a logo and other visual elements, but that’s only a small part. There is also structuring, creating the client’s story, and building up an image of a strong company. Wolff Olins Dubai has worked with such companies as Aldar and Mathaf. The variety of clients and their fields keeps each member of our team busy — there is always something new to learn, to read about, and to become proficient in.
In the past few months, working with several clients based in India and other countries in the region has become my passion. Waking up and being excited about going to the office and telling friends friends during dinners everything I was learning was a good sign of how much I liked what I was doing.
I eventually started representing the Dubai office in terms of marketing and PR and had weekly calls with the company’s other offices to share what we had accomplished. I was also lucky enough to travel to India with Zia, as well as a design director and a project manager, to meet with clients. It was an unforgettable experience of work, collaboration, and problem solving.
My internship went very well and I was honored to be asked to continue with the company during the academic year. I left Wolff Olins for the month of August, but I’m now thrilled to be back!
Besiki Turazashvili is a strategist and marketing associate at Wolff Olins Dubai.
"I want to engage in a meaningful conversation with people that dislike ‘branding, and what it stands for."
Ben Brookbanks, one of the participants on our online branding course, recently posted this comment. It struck a cord with me.
I believe that brand can be a force for good. That it can be used as a tool to create value for society, not just shareholders. At the same time, I know that the world is full of brand skeptics (even inside my office). And I welcome the challenge.
In a company meeting, our London office managing director Ije Nwokorie told everyone to “connect with enemies and strangers, not just friends and family.” The world can often feel like an echo chamber – particularly now that almost everything digital can be filtered and personalised to our preferences.
But if we’re going to create better brands and businesses, we have to step outside of our comfort zones and surround ourselves with people who challenge our assumptions.
Real social progress happens through critical and meaningful conversation with those who think differently than us.
I recently listened to this brilliant TED NPR edit by Margaret Heffernan, former CEO of five businesses, on how good conflict is central to progress. In this talk, Margaret describes how a cancer researcher named Alice Stewart collaborated with a statistician named George Kneale whose job it was to prove her wrong. Because of their critical collaboration, Alice had the academic confidence to prove to the medical establishment that x-raying pregnant women led to higher rates of childhood cancers. For George and Alice, conflict meant thinking together for a better world.
Let’s use conflict for good. Let’s find our George Kneale equivalent. Let’s go beyond just talking to strangers on the bus or at the store, let’s be as open as possible and connect with people who think about the world and live completely different than us.
Melissa Andrada is a lead strategist passionate about creating businesses that inspire people, do good and make money.
Last week we held our first-ever MakeShop at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The event was our excuse to get some of our favorite partners, clients, friends and family together to dive deeper in the behaviors we explored in our latest Game Changers report.
In the spirit of making, we worked with Henrik Werdelin and Philip Ingemann Petersen, of Prehype, the venture development firm that’s helped companies ranging from Verizon to News Corp incubate and spin out new businesses. We heard from Jake Barton, principal and founder of Local Projects, whose media design firm reinvents public space through collaborative storytelling experiences like Storycorps, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and Change By Us. And we wrapped up the day getting our hands dirty (as dirty as littleBits will get you) learning how to prototype our product ideas with Bethany Koby, the founder of Technology Will Save Us.
Our senior strategist is responsible for developing compelling strategic narratives and recommendations, and building client relationships.
This position requires dynamic, self-motivated, digitally-native individuals with experience in understanding different types of business models and challenges, developing cut-through insights connected to clients’ business and brand opportunities and creating strategic solutions across online and offline platforms. In addition, our senior strategists independently run medium-sized client engagements, with responsibility for overall content development and delivery as well as long term client growth.
The strategist works closely with strategy directors, creative directors and the design team, and the new business and marketing teams.
- Identify cut-through industry, competitor, consumer and digital insights by analysis of client input, consumer research and industry experience
- Employ conventional and non-conventional research methodologies to uncover the right insights
- Stay current and interested in consumer macrotrends, industry debates and technological innovations
- Frame insights in clear language, build solid rationale to support strategic recommendations, and craft compelling stories
- Contribute to WO thought leadership – blogs, white papers, etc.
- Use and evolve new strategy tools, methodologies and frameworks frameworks
- Direct and motivate other strategists and new business/marketing team
- Cultivate and grow client relationships, acting as lead strategy contact for client engagements on projects valued at $500K to $1M.
- Partner with creative team to translate strategic insights into tangible, meaningful and useful products, services and experiences, both digital and physical
- Support new business process through key issue identification and analysis and strategic point-of-view development; proactively pursue new business targets
- Bachelor’s degree plus 5 - 10 years experience in brand, advertising, digital or management consultant agencies
- Proven critical thinking, content synthesis and research skills
- Experience creating or managing digital or technology brand experiences
- Exceptional communication, writing, analysis and organizational skills
- Content creator – online or offline
- Ability to lead and inspire teams
- Ability to manage multiple projects in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment
- Proven ability to build consensus and work effectively within a cross-departmental team
Does this sound like you? If so, please send your resume to PeopleSanFran@wolffolins.com with the subject line SF Senior Strategist. Be sure to include resume and anticipated salary range.
DISH Network officially announced yesterday that Blockbuster will be closing its remaining U.S. retail stores and distribution centers — and it’s no surprise. Once a staple of video watching at home, Blockbuster had become very utilitarian – building and sustaining a brand that was tied too closely to the functional aspect of what it delivered. In people’s minds, Blockbuster = The Brick & Mortar Video Store.
Had they thought of themselves as being about ‘providing access to entertainment’ instead of as a ‘video rental store’ - and taken steps to deliver on that bigger promise - they might still be thriving in a world where devices, digital and on-demand media consumption reign supreme.
Other brands can and should learn from this: create a range of offers and tell stories about the benefit you provide to people, not just the functionality of what you do and have done. It’s the difference between ‘why’ and ‘what.’ And it makes all the difference.
Sam Liebeskind is a strategist at Wolff Olins New York.